A slORY ABOUT A REAL MAN ffftj passing their doors. So much so, indeed, that one day, when Meresyev was down with the flu, messengers were sent from the other wards to inquire what had happened to the footless lieutenant. In the morning, Alexei did his physical exercises and then, sitting on a chair, he would train his feet to perform the motions necessary to control an aircraft. Sometimes he exercised until his head swam, until he heard a ring- ing in his ears and bright green circles swam before his eyes and the floor seemed to heave under him. When that happened he would go to the washstand, douse his head with cold water and lie down for a while in order to recover quickly so as not to miss his hour of walking and gymnastics. That day, after walking until he grew dizzy, he groped his way into the ward, seeing nothing in front of him, and sank on to his bed. Recovering a little, he became conscious of voices in the ward: the calm, slightly iron- ical voice of Klavdia Mikhailovna, and the excited, pleading voice of Struchkov. Both were so taken up with their conversation that they failed to notice Meresyev coming into the ward. "Believe me, I am talking seriously! Can't you under- stand? Are you a woman, or not?" "Yes, of course I am a woman, but I don't understand, and you can't talk seriously on this subject. Besides, I don't want your seriousness!" Struchkov lost his temper and shouted in a railing tone: "I love you, damn it! You are not a woman, you are a block of wood not to see that! D'you understand now?" With that he turned away and drummed his fingers on the window-pane. Klavdia Mikhailovna walked towards the door with the soft, cautious footsteps of the trained nurse. "Where are you off to? Aren't you going to answer me?" "This is neither the time nor the place to talk about that, I am on duty." "Why don't you talk straight out? Why are you tormenting me? Answer!" There was a note of anguish in the major's voice now.